Xena the Bald Eagle
Her Release
Sept. 30, 2013

It has been my good fortune to photograph the release of Xena, a first-year bald eagle, on Tuesday, 24 September 2013. The story goes back something over a month, and let me quote from Robyn Graboski, the director of Centre Wildlife Care (CWC), the rehab organization for wildlife in State College, Pennsylvania, and the surrounding area:
  • [In August] we got in a baby eagle (this years chick) that suffered from West Nile Virus. Well, she/he is not such a baby anymore! At first we didn't' think she would make it and were concerned that she had lead poisoning. But it was just as bad being diagnosed with West Nile Virus. The bird could not stand up which is seen with lead and West Nile Virus. Many birds do not recover from either one. However, she has recovered from the viral infection, has gained weight, and is flying quite well. When she arrived his PCV was 8%. It should be around 40%. His blood values are now normal! Whoo Hooo!

    He/she is doing well and eating everything in sight . . . sort of like a teenage girl with a hollow leg! Well, you could say that she is a teenage bird with a hollow leg. With the help of the Game Commission officer that found her and brought her to CWC, we will be releasing her back with her family. She is still a youngster that needs support from her parents . .  just like teenagers do. Hopefully within a week the family will be reunited.

The first step in reuniting the eagle with her family was to capture her in the flight cage, which was the bald eagle's exercise room. Xena is a wild bird, but the skill that Robyn brings to the situation made it look easy. It is anything but! The eagle's struggle against being captured from the flight cage and her size made me decide to call the bald eagle, Xena.
Robyn wrapped Xena in a towel

Xena's head was kept covered to help keep her calm.

From State College, we drove north into the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania region. There we met the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) officers who had first rescued Xena back in August.

We had a cheerful conversation - there is much happiness in being able to return an eagle to the wild - before getting to the serious business of having the release.

Robyn and DCNR officers

Robyn positioned the crate in which Xena was carried so that the door pointed toward the lip of a low slope before the creek.

As soon as Robyn opened the crate, Xena was out and running.

Robyn releases Xena

Xena had a short flight to the plain below, and she looked back at us.
Xena stares back at us

Soon afterward, Xena flew to the creek and out of sight.

A DCNR officer went down the slope and then indicated I should follow, and I saw Xena by the large rocks at the border of the creek.

I'd say that Xena was enjoying her freedom, a true warrior-princess.

Xena by the streambed

After a few minutes, Xena flew downstream, and we all thought, that was that.

While all of us were discussing the release, Xena flew back past us, and how magnificent she appeared in flight!

Xena flying

Xena proceeded to fly/explore upstream and downstream. Was she familiarizing herself with her own area or looking for her family? Or both? I don't know, but I hope for a happy reunion.

Photo note: I used a Pentax K20D, with various lenses, all taken on 24 September 2013.

Note 2: I have more Xena photos at the Centre Wildlife Care Facebook pages (for which you needn't be a member of FB to see).

Note 3: An earlier bald eagle release via CWC from January 2013: Canace returns to the wild!

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